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Klima og demografiske kriser i Norge i middelalder og tidlig nytid

Audun Dybdahl, f. 1944, dr. philos. 1979, professor ved Institutt for historie og klassiske fag, Norges Teknisk-Naturvitenskapelige Universitet (NTNU).

  • Side: 183-222
  • Publisert på Idunn: 2010-07-02
  • Publisert: 2010-07-02

Tema for denne artikkelen er klimaets betydning for befolkning og bosetning i middelalder og tidlig nytid. Skyldtes de demografiske krisene avlingssvikt/hungersnød eller sykdom? Innledningsvis blir det referert til forskning på europeisk (særlig engelsk) materiale. Videre blir norske historikeres syn på årsakene til agrarkrisen i senmiddelalderen gjennomgått. Pioneren Hasund hevdet at det var pestene og ikke klimaet som holdt folketallet på et lavmål middelalderen ut, et synspunkt som i de senere år er gjentatt av forskere som Lunden og Moseng.  I artikkelen hevdes det at klimaets rolle er undervurdert, særlig må klimatiske sjokk med flere uår på rad direkte og indirekte ha ført til betydelig overdødelighet i et land som lå så langt mot nord. Dendrokronologisk påviste uår gjenspeiles i en god del tilfeller i skriftlige kilders opplysninger om dårlige kornavlinger og høy mortalitet.

Climate and demographic crises in Norway in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period

An increasing interest in climatic change has taken place in recent decades. In 1965, Peter Laslett asked the fundamental question «Did the peasants really starve?» Andrew Appleby and many historians have since tried to find out what the impact of climatic change on population might be. In Norway, the agrarian crisis following the Black Death has been debated for three generations. It was the agrarian historian S. Hasund who first published a work on the destructive force of the Black Death in Norway. The Black Death was followed by several plagues that led to disturbance in population reproduction. The Scandinavian Research Project on Deserted Farms and Villages (Ødegårdsprosjektet) stimulated to massive documentation of the various manifestations of the agrarian crisis, but did not get much further with the causal problem. Although climate deterioration, ecological problems (soil exhaustion) and subsequent plagues were discussed, the Black Death remained the main cause of the late medieval crisis. In Norsk landbrukshistorie, K. Lunden, on the whole, joined with Hasund’s conclusions. It was the Black Death and later plagues that decisively effected population and settlement. This was an assessment that in 2006 was repeated by O. G. Moseng, who at the same time criticized the Deserted Farms and Villages Project for not giving appropriate consideration to the plagues that followed the Black Death. In the present article, the author argues that the role of climate is underestimated in recent research. The serious effect crop damage must have had on a vulnerable agrarian society is underlined. Especially dangerous was the situation when harvest failures occurred on two or more consecutive years. Several demographic crises in Norway in the 1700s turn out to have coincided with crop failure and famine. There is no reason to believe that the situation was very different in the Middle Ages, especially before the Black Death. A population that was weakened by hunger was also more susceptible to disease. Dendrochronological research shows that there is a clear correlation between the width of tree rings and the growth conditions of grain. Extremely narrow tree rings often indicate crop failure, and this can be documented in written sources dating back to the Middle Ages. Dendroclimatology is a science that will be increasingly important in future historical research.

Keywords: Climate, demographic changes, Middle Ages and Early Modern Period, Norway.
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